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March 18, 2021

Stop calling it a “bicycle accident.”

It’s a crash, not an “accident.”

“The studies also looked at whether reports contained what the researchers called a counterfactual: a detail that subtly shifts blame, such as noting that the victim “was not wearing a helmet” or “was wearing dark clothing.” In the university group’s study, 48 percent of the examined stories included such a statement, which, without important context, suggested the victim was at least partly at fault. “Dark clothing is irrelevant if the driver is distracted,” says Goddard, “and a helmet will not save you if the driver hits you at 60 miles per hour.”

These counterfactuals don’t just crop up in news stories; they appear in civil court cases, too. “I had a client who was hit at 9 a.m. in June, broad daylight, wearing normal street clothes,” says Hottman. “And the defense made the implication that it was his fault for not dressing in a bright and visible fashion.” Read the rest, here.

Let’s rephrase that, with respect: it’s not a bicycle “accident,” it’s a driver of a car causing life-threatening injury.
“Passive language [in media reports] was widespread. The university group’s research examined media reports on 200 crashes nationwide where cyclists or pedestrians died or were seriously injured, and it found that in 80 percent of them, the main actor in the crash was described as a vehicle—not as a person. “Sometimes the story would say that the person was hit by a car, which is passive,” says Tara Goddard, an assistant professor of urban planning at Texas A&M, who was involved in the study. This language distances the driver’s actions from the crash. “To say an object with no capability on its own actively hit a cyclist is hilarious phraseology,” says Megan Hottman, a Colorado lawyer who represents cyclists hit by drivers.”
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